Considering the Importance of Words

Have you ever heard of the expressions ‘empty words’ or ‘empty chatter’?  Usually, there is a deeper reason why certain expressions have become time-honored.

What makes words empty?  We could say that mere, and often incorrect, repeating of something we heard or read without fully understanding its meaning makes our words empty.  Any words used to bolster our egos are bound to be empty.  Frivolous talk produces empty chatter.  For good reason, the expression ‘empty words’ is often used in connection with unfulfilled promises or saying things we don’t mean.  Sometimes we reply absentmindedly to someone else’s question or story without having fully listened.  In this case, our words will certainly be mostly empty as well.

Words that are profound or have some bearing are those that come from deep insight as a result of full comprehension gained through one’s inquiry, contemplation, and direct experience.  Words that are profound usually have a positive effect on the listener, because they come from a place of wisdom.  I know from my own experience with a book I once read that profound words can potentially be life-altering.  There are many profound words, as in ancient spiritual texts from all traditions with their complex imagery, which will by-pass the intellect and go straight to the intuitive understanding of the reader.

In this age of mass and social media, every day we are confronted with an overload of words.  Oftentimes, without even realizing it, they make us confused and tired.  There is only so much information we can process at any given time.  We, too, are contributing to the conversation via emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.  But we have the choice to contribute to the chaos and abundance of empty words that are already flooding all channels of communication or we can decide to contribute to the conversation only with words that have some bearing.

How do we know if our words are empty or meaningful?  To help discern between these two qualities, asking ourselves the following questions might help:  Will what I am about to say have any positive effect on the world around me?  Will my words add to the world’s beauty or spiritual richness?  Will I be of any help or brighten someone’s day with my words?  If we can say ‘yes’ to any one of these questions, then we know that we are about to make a valuable contribution and are not cluttering our environment with more empty words or chatter.

Oneness

Would it make sense to give every drop in the ocean a name?  Does any of them ever independently exist on its own?  Are any of the drops different from the others?

Conventionally, we need to label things and living beings to help navigate and orient ourselves in this existence.  But, like the drops in the ocean, all things and living beings are connected in this vast universe.  And none of them exists on its own.

Therefore, it does make sense to treat things and living beings with the same love, kindness, and compassion as we would treat ourselves.  Whatever attitude we extend toward others, the world will respond in kind.  A loving, kind, and compassionate attitude will generate great harmony among all.

Why Look In The Mirror?

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Why look in the mirror?
Don’t we already know our bodies from the inside out?
Are we not already connected with them in the most intimate way possible?

Think of your arms and legs.
Your arms will perform any task you command them to do,
  no matter how straining and difficult.
Your legs will sedulously carry you wherever you ask them to take you,
  no matter how far or how high.

Think of your eyes, mouth, ears, nose, and hands.
They are your portals to the outer world and to life itself.
How tirelessly they take in air, nourishment, and outer stimuli,
And help you express your inner life to the outer world!

Why look in the mirror and judge your miraculous body
  that is so supportive and perfect?
You already know it.  It is the temple in which your soul resides.
Treat it with gratitude, kindness, and great care!

			

Outer Altar – Inner Sanctum

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An altar needs daily tending to.

There are wilting flowers and ripening fruit to be replaced,

Burnt out candles to be changed out by new ones,

Water to be refreshed.

The surface of the altar requires dusting.

We may like to present little seasonal treasures from nature;

Something representing the five elements.

We approach the altar gently and with great humility.

Done mindfully, tending to an altar fills us with joy and gratitude.

Physically, mentally and spiritually,

it takes us close to the subject of our veneration.

Perhaps without realizing it, as we tend to the outer altar,

we simultaneously tend to our inner sanctum.

What a joyous and worthwhile effort both are!

One Single Focus

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One drop of water is small, weak, and ineffective.  However, many drops of water combined can form a powerful river that cuts through rock.

Similarly, our thoughts often are like scattered drops of water.  But when consolidated into one single focus, nothing can stand in the way of its force.

The Ugly Duckling – A Metaphor for the Human Condition

When I was younger, Hans Christian Anderson’s tale ‘The Ugly Duckling’ never struck me as anything else, but another fairy tale   My Tibetan Buddhist teacher’s narration of a similar tale, ‘The Chicken Eagle’, sparked my interest in revisiting the story of ‘The Ugly Duckling’.  This time, I was awestruck by its profundity.

Hans Christian Anderson manages to package life’s trials and tribulations, the human condition of suffering, and the way to overcome it into a story seemingly geared toward the young.  Upon closer investigation of the metaphors and symbolism, the story’s significance and its suitability for all ages becomes quite clear.

First, the author lets us identify ourselves with the ugly duckling.  We recognize that we, too, are experiencing suffering from abuse, rejection, loss or bullying in our own lives, unable to find a way out of the cycle of misery.  For every kindness shown to us we encounter unkindness.  Life seems to be a continuous stream of ups and downs.

Lonesome and sad, the ugly duckling sets off by himself seeking relief for his misery.  He withdraws from the world and spends an entire winter alone in hiding.  One can quickly see the parallels between the metaphors of winter and a desert.  Everything is barren.  Winter and the desert, both signify solitude and present themselves for introspection and a struggle with one’s own concept of the Self.

The story climaxes as winter is followed by spring, symbolic for new beginnings and new life, and the ugly duckling reaches a point where he’d rather throw himself at a flock of swans on the thawing lake and be killed than endure anymore suffering.  He has become so weary with life that he decides to surrender.  At that very moment, he comes to realize his true nature.  For the first time in his life, he is able to spread his beautiful wings and take flight.

——————-

The ugly duckling has to go through suffering to receive the spark for wanting to seek the truth.  He has to endure trials and tribulations before he decides to surrender his ego.  Through dying he realizes the true nature of his self and is liberated from the suffering caused by his delusions.

Plot Summary of The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson (taken from Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ugly_Duckling )

When the tale begins, a mother duck’s eggs hatch. One of the little birds is perceived by the duck’s surroundings as a homely little creature and suffers much verbal and physical abuse from the other birds and animals on the farm. He wanders sadly from the barnyard and lives with wild ducks and geese until hunters slaughter the flocks. He then finds a home with an old woman but her cat and hen tease him mercilessly and again he sets off on his own. He sees a flock of migrating wild swans; he is delighted and excited but he cannot join them for he is too young and cannot fly. Winter arrives. A farmer finds and carries the freezing little bird home, but the foundling is frightened by the farmer’s noisy children and flees the house. He spends a miserable winter alone in the outdoors mostly hiding in a cave on the lake that partly freezes over. When spring arrives a flock of swans descends on the now thawing lake. The ugly duckling, now having fully grown and matured cannot endure a life of solitude and hardship any more and decides to throw himself at the flock of swans deciding that it is better to be killed by such beautiful birds than to live a life of ugliness and misery. He is shocked when the swans welcome and accept him, only to realize by looking at his reflection in the water that he has grown into one of them. The flock takes to the air and the ugly duckling spreads his beautiful large wings and takes flight with the rest of his new family.

Devotion

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Sometimes I see a mother bird at our feeder with her grown and fully capable offspring.   While the young bird is sitting on a branch nearby, the mother bird painstakingly selects the most nourishing seed and then feeds it lovingly to her grown child.

Let us be as selfless in our love and devotion to family and other people as the mother bird!  Even grown children, our spouses, parents, friends or other adults need to be made felt cared about and loved, especially if they had a bad day or have lots of worries on their mind.

Often all ot takes is one small act of kindness to cheer someone up and make a person feel loved and appreciated.

The Beauty in Flaws

Recently I stumbled upon a rose bush which was void of any leaves.  However, as I looked more closely, I noticed something peculiar about it:  it had one big, plump rose bud.

All the other rose bushes nearby had an abundance of leaves.  Yet the leafless rose bush was not concerned with that. It did not compare itself to the other rose bushes.  It did not get depressed or let envy get in its way.  Instead, it decided to bloom and reveal its unique beauty to the world  the way it was intended to. And gorgeous it was!

The observation above reminded me of our obsession with looks.  We worry so much about perceived flaws in our physique.  We feel pressured to measure up to unachievable, unrealistic standards.  Of course, by default hardly anyone ever does.

The truth is, we are all beautiful and perfect just as we are in our own uniqueness.  There is only one of you and one of me.  Let us follow the example of the leafless rose bush and unfold our own unique beauty the way we are intended to.

At the End of the Day

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I rest my head on a soft pillow of lush green moss and

cover my body with a warm blanket of twinkling, golden stars. Then

I say good night to mother Earth and father Heaven and

the ten thousand things.

Another Circle Completed

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Today I came across a funeral procession on the interstate.  Several police cars accompanied the mourning and cleared the right lane for free, unhindered passage.  All other drivers on the road kept at a respectful distance.

It was a long procession, and it was obvious that the deceased had a large family and many friends.  As the hearse passed me by, I wanted to bow and bid farewell to another life courageously lived to completion.  But of course I couldn’t as I was driving myself.

This funeral procession reminded me of a circle completed; the circle of a life, start to finish.  A circle is endless.  Where there is an end, there is always a new beginning.  All we have to do is take a closer look at nature and we will find enough evidence of it.

The death of a person lends itself for the celebration of his life in this existence, his contributions, the load he carried, the roads he walked, the other lives he touched, and the numerous tough decisions he had to make on the Way at too many cross-roads to count.

This world would not have been the same without him.  This world is an infinite cyclic, creative process.  Every life has its meaning and plays an important role in this creation by co-creating.  So, instead of bowing physically to the deceased on the interstate, I did it mentally.